The Things That Really Matter

Apr 15, 2021 | Three on Thursday

I changed. I don’t know how else to say it. I was going along in my thirties, raising my kids and writing online and having a good time. But then I turned a corner and changed directions.

I don’t think it was turning 40 that did it. That milestone didn’t affect me much. I was closer to 45 when I realized: The things that were important to me at 35 were no longer important to me at 45.

At 35 I was blogging and traveling to conferences and learning all I could about publishing. It was an exciting time for sure. I met so many wonderful people, many of whom I continue to stay in contact with today. But there was something else going on, too. In far too many online spaces, there was an unsettling atmosphere — a sense of striving to be noticed — a “spirit of clamoring,” if you will. And I didn’t want that to be me.

About this time, a specific passage from Scripture took hold of me and wouldn’t let go. Exodus 23:11 says,

“In the seventh year you shall let the land rest and lie fallow.”

In agricultural terms, this is a God-ordained sabbatical for the land, letting it rest from continued plowing, seeding, and harvesting. So, I had to ask myself: What might it look like for me to “let the land rest and lie fallow?”

I sensed a deep need to press pause for a time to examine my own heart for such tendencies.

One, my own proclivity toward overworking was wearing on my health. I knew something needed to give.

Two, and this is huge, in the past few years I’ve had several friends pass away — friends who were my age or younger. This has a way of making you reevaluate what is truly important in life. For each life, each breath, is such a precious gift.

Three, I had to admit that I’m not interested in some of the things that are popular online. I was trying to swim in a pool that didn’t align with my deepest passions and concerns.

So, I changed, and in the process, I daydreamed about logging off forever and living in a cabin in the woods. But that’s not realistic, and it’s not what God has called me to do. Instead, God has quietly but persistently been inviting me to embrace a vision for living differently, which is why the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 means so much to me.

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.”

These are such beautiful, freeing words. There is no striving. No rushing. No hustling. No clamoring.

There is just everyday living. With the ones closest to you. Together. Washing dishes. Folding laundry. Learning new recipes. Writing out Scripture. Taking long walks. And sleeping deeply.

It’s been good. Very good.

Today, I’m sharing links to three articles that, in their own way, talk about finding the things that really matter. And I’d love to hear from you. Have you experienced a season in your life when your priorities changed and your life took a different direction?



“Finding God in a Spiritual Drought” by Mei Au

“One day, during my quiet time, I heard His gentle but convicting voice, You have been busy building your own kingdom all these years, striving for success and significance through your career. . . . I worked hard to climb up the corporate ladder, eagerly taking courses to further my career but only reading my Bible if time permitted. God was nowhere near the top of my priorities.”

“Everything That Hinders” by Sharon Sampson

“We’ve only been at our current home for eight years, but things have a way of creeping in. . . . Thus, we have been on an inspection tour through our home. Keep or get rid of? . . . There is a very real sense in which the same process applies to eternal life. . . . What things are a hindrance to a well-ordered life?”

“Social Commentary Blows Away with the Wind” by Doug Eaton

“I am growing more convicted that much of what Christian writers, myself included, spend time writing about will not stand the test of time. . . . In the cultural atmosphere in which we write, it is way too easy to desire a larger readership for our posts, and it is way too easy to focus on topics and titles that will attract eyes. Because of this, it is also way too easy to neglect biblical truth to appease itching ears.”



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You can read more in the #ThreeOnThursday series here.





Denise J. Hughes

Denise J. Hughes

Denise writes about “the quiet life” — a phrase found in 1 Thessalonians 4:11. It’s a vision for living counterculturally in a loud and restless world. She is the author of Deeper Waters and the General Editor of the CSB (in)courage Devotional Bible. Denise lives in North Carolina with her husband and three kids.


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